On the crossroads of Dhauladhar and Zanskar ranges, Chamba, bordering Jammu & Kashmir, is the northernmost district of Himachal Pradesh. Fast flowing streams drain into River Ravi on the southern side and into Chenab on the northern fringes, the mountains of Chamba have some of the most scenic locations, pristine lakes, unclimbed peaks, dense alpine forests, rich wildlife, fertile valleys and the land is populated with a lively people endowed with a vibrant culture, stretching back to thousands of years.
The town of Chamba, the district headquarter of Chamba district is situated in the western Himalayas between north latitudes 32°10′ and 33°13′ and east longitudes 75°45′ and 77°33′. The town stands on a plateau on the right bank of the Ravi river valley between Dhauladhar and Zanskar ranges south of the inner Himalayas. This town was founded by Raja Sahil Varman when he conquered the lower Rani valley from the petty chiefs called Ranas and Thakurs in the beginning of 10th Century. It seems the original name of the town was Champa as mentioned in Kalhan’s Rajtarangani. In the bansauli or genealogical rolls of the Chamba Rajas a reference occurs of place which was adorned with highly fragrant Champaka trees and guarded by Goddess Champavati or more popularly known as Chameshni. The temple was built by Sahil Varman in the honour of his daughter Champavati who is worshipped as a goddess in Chamba. Champavati temple became the family temple of the ruling family.
Language: Hindi, Punjabi, English are understood and spoken by the people engaged in tourism trade.
Temperature: The maximum temperature in Chamba town in summers is 38°C and the minimum in winter is 0°C.
Season: The best tourist season to visit Chamba is round the year.
Where to stay: Chamba has accommodation to suit most types of budgets and tastes.
HPTDC guest houses provide a comfortable stay at reasonable prices. Details are available from local tourist offices.
By Road: Bus and taxi service is available from Chamba to Pathankot, Delhi, Dharamsala, Shimla, Chandigarh and Jammu
By Rail: The nearest rail head is located 120 Kms away at Pathankot.
By Air: The nearest airport is 180 Kms away at Kangra.
How To Get Around: Local buses operate regularly. Taxis are also available
|Places to visit||Km|
|Akhand Chandi Palace||1|
|Bhuri Singh Museum||0|
|Chamunda Devi Temple||3|
|Hari Rai Temple||0|
|Kilar (Pangi Valley HQ)||173|
|Laxmi Narayan Temple||0|
|Sui Mata Temple||2|
- Enjoy River Rafting in River Ravi.
- Enjoy Snow Fall Pangi Valley.
- Witness the great beauty of “Gulmarg of Himachal” and “Mini Switzerland” at Khajjiar.
- Forest Camping at Saho.
Minjar is the most popular fair of Chamba which is attended by a large number of people from every nook and corner of the district. This mela is held on the second Sunday of the Shravana month (i.e. Between last week of July to first week of August). The fair is announced by distribution of Minjar which is a silk tassel worn on some parts of the dress by men and women alike. This tassel symbolizes the shoots of paddy and maize which make their appearance around this time of the year. The week long International fair begins when the Minjar flag is hoisted in historical Chowgan. The town of Chamba wears a colorful look with every person turning out in best attire. Most part of the Chowgan is converted into markets and people do brisk business during this week. Sports and cultural programs are organised. Earlier the Raja and now the chief guest throws a coconut, a rupee, a seasonal fruit and a Minjar tied in a red piece of cloth – Lohan – as offering to the river. This is followed by all the people throwing their Minjars into the river. Traditional Kumjari-Malhar is sung by the local artists.
Undoubtedly Chamba is at its very best during this International fair that generally falls in the month of July/ August.
|District Tourism Development Office, Chamba||224002|
|Tourist Information Centre, Dalhousie (Chamba)||242225|
Full of grandeur and tribal majesty is the land locked valley of Pangi, 173 km from Chamba via Sach Pass (4414 m). It is one of the sub-division of Chamba district surrounded by the Peer Panjal & Zanskar ranges. Killar is the sub-divisional headquarter of Pangi Valley. Beyond the reach of tropical monsoon rains, the valley is one of the off-beat challenging tourism destinations in the State. Approach to the Pangi valley is across the high mountain passes like Sach, Chehni and Rohtang Pass. The Valley is remained land locked for about six months due to heavy snow fall.
There are beautiful valleys within Pangi region like Sural, Saichu, Kumar-Parmar, Hundan and Sechu. All these valleys are connected with Zanskar. People of Pangi valley are mainly Hindu with a small population of Buddhist. Some people live in higher reaches of the valley called Bhatoris such as Sural Bhatori, Hundan Bhatori, Parmar Bhatori, Chasak Bhatori and Hilu-Twan. There are number of exciting treks from Pangi valley to Keylong (Lahaul valley), Manali (Kullu) and Kishtwar in Kashmir.
Twenty kms from Chamba is the village of Saho on the right bank of Sal river. The village is situated on a high plateau of great beauty. Saho is famous for its temple dedicated to Lord Chandra Shekhra i.e. the moon-crowned God, Shiva. The temple is hidden behind the locality in a tree grove. Two magnificent images of Shiva can be seen at the entrance and a huge Shivaling is enshrined in the sanctum. Facing the temple is a life size Nandi bull carved with fine details.
According to Sarahan Prasasti, “The temple was constructed by Stayaki, a local Rana in order to establish friendship between his wife Somprabha and the daughter Parvati”. It is believed that the temple belongs to a period earlier than transfer of seat of power from Bharmour to Chamba in 10th century. In the month of August/ September a mela is held in the compound of the temple. This mela coincides with Manimahesh Yatra.
During summer Saho wears a golden mantle of wheat crop and in August/September the fields are lush green with paddy crop. The spring water of Saho is supposed to have medicinal value. There is a Forest Rest House at Saho.
23 kms from Dalhousie by road and 13 kms from Kalatop is the mini Switzerland of India i.e. Khajjiar, at a height of 6400 ft. Hutchison writes, “Khajjiar is a forest glade of great beauty, 6400 feet above sea level”. Khajjiar is often referred to as “Gulmarg of Himachal Pradesh”. The lush green meadows are surrounded by thick pine and cedar forests. Grazing herds of sheep, goats and other milk cattle presents a perfect pastoral scenery. There is a small lake in the center of the saucer shaped meadow which has in it a floating island. Much of the lake has degenerated into slush because of heavy silting during rains. Still the landscape of Khajjiar is picturesque and a photographer’s delight.
A little away from the lake is the temple of Khajji Nag belonging to 12th C. AD. In the mandapa of the temple one can see the images of the Pandavas and the defeated Kaurvas hanging from the roof of the circumambulatory path. The sanctum of the temple has been beautifully carved from wood.
There is a Tourism Hotel and some Tourism cottages at Khajjiar where the tourists can stay. Besides there are two rest houses one each of P.W.D. and Forest Deptt. A couple of private hotels have also come up, which do not match the above places in terms of location and amenities. Bus service to and from Khajjiar is limited and timings change according to local demands. There used to be a golf course in Khajjiar which is not maintained. The best entertainment in Khajjiar is to walk around the lake or to go for long walks in the thick pine forests. Children enjoy this place because of the freedom of movement and the sloppy terrain which permits them to roll down to the lake without getting hurt. Another attraction like any other hill station is horse riding.
On 07-07-1992, Mr. Willy t. Blazer, Vice Counselor and Head of Chancery of Switzerland in India brought Khajjiar on the world tourism map by christening it “Mini Switzerland”. He also put a sign board of a yellow Swiss hiking footpath showing Khajjiar’s distance from the Swiss capital Berne-6194 kms. Khajjiar is among the 160 locations in the world that bear topographical resemblance with Switzerland. The Counselor also took from Khajjiar a stone which will form part of a stone collage around the Swiss Parliament to remind the visitors of Khajjiar as Mini Switzerland of India.
Bharmaur, on the bank of Budhal river, was the original capital of the Chamba royal family for about 400 years before Raja Sahil Varman moved it to Chamba in 920 A.D.
Enclosed between the Dhauladhar and Pir Panjal ranges, Bharmaur has abundant of alpine pastures and is home to the noble nomadic Gaddi tribe. As the earlier power center of the valley, Bharmaur was known for its grandiose; the remains and monuments, best exemplified in the Chaurasi temple complex, exhibit the historical heritage of the township.
Built in the 7th century and dedicated to Lord Shiva as Manimahesh, a shikara style temple is the main shrine of the Chaurasi Ttemple complex. A life size bull idol of Nandi, in polished brass, guards the entrance. Spread over the ground are 84 other temples, giving the place its name of Chaurasi, meaning 84 shrines in the local dialect.
The Lakshna Devi temple with an idol of a four armed goddess Durga as slayer of Mahishasura, the demon, is believed to the oldest temple here. Other important temples at the compound are that of Narsingh, Dharmeshvar Mahadev and Ganpati Ganesh.
Overlooking Bharmaur, 4 kms for the town, on a hill is the temple of Bharmani Mata, considered as the guardian goddess of the valley. All pilgrims who go for the annual Manimahesh pilgrimage, only do so after starting by taking a holy dip in a pool at this temple to seek the Devi’s blessing for a safe journey into the high mountains.There are many trekking trails of easy to stiff grades in and around Bharmaur. Many adventure seekers from the country and foreigners take to summer camping and trekking in these valleys.The Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Mountaineering and Allied Sports, Manali operates a Mountaineering Center at Bharmaur, where training is imparted in rock climbing, mountaineering, skiing and other adventure sports. The center also organizes treks, for which it does provide basic equipment’s like tents, sleeping bags and other trekking gear.
The towering Manimahesh Kailash peak at 5656 meters, reflected in the serene and healing waters of a turquoise lake evokes a spontaneous prayer in pilgrims and trekkers who make the effort to get there.
Manimahesh Lake is an important pilgrimage place. Each year thousands converge for the Manimahesh Yatra in August – September to pay obeisance to Lord Shiva. Singing devotional songs, pilgrims wind their way up an arduous track to bathe in the icy waters of the lake and worship at a small lakeside temple. Belief holds that Lord Shiva resides on the holy peak. Manimahesh is 34 kms from Bharmaur.
Kugti Pass (Trekking route into Lahaul Valley)
An arduous 5 day trek over the 5040 meter high Kugti Pass that crosses over the Pir Panjal range to Jobrung in Pattan valley on the Udaipur-Keylong road in Lahaul is a challenging adventure.
A motorable road from Bharmaur extends into the valley for another 19 kms through Hadsar to Dhanol, the base camp for the trekking route. Surrounded by thick conifer forests, just below the pass, Kugti is the last inhabited village before a steep ascent has to be negotiated to get to the pass. The trek is a difficult one and one needs to prepare well. Do take time to acclimatize to high altitude trekking for undertaking this route. Only the physically fit and seasoned trekkers should attempt it.
Less traveled and lesser known, the rural charm of Churah valley of Chamba is a circuit in itself and a real treasure for those on the look out for offbeat destinations. On the crossroads of Himachal Pradesh and the state of Jammu & Kashmir, it is one of the relatively least untouched Himalayan habitats. Hidden gems of Churah valley include Bhandal-Kihar, Thalli-Bhatkar, Bhukhu Dhar, Jasorgarh, Dudar Dhar, Baira, Salooni-Kilod, Himgiri-Banter and Devi Kothi.
Before the kingdom of Chamba was abolished in 1948, the region was governed by their feudals, who built outpost rest houses and hill fortresses to guard the principality. The Sei Kothi, Devi Kothi, Himgiri Kothi, Thanei Kothi, Sanooh Kothi and Ladan Kothi are outpost rest houses and Bairagarh, Tikrigarh, Begheigarh and Jasorgarh Kothi’s are military structures.
Old Indo-Greek coins were found at Lachori village and established the evidence about the armies of Alexander the Great having been around in the region after the invasion of North West India in 326 BC. Some of the coins are on display at the Bhuri Singh Museum in Chamba.
Given to a slow pace of rural life, the religious beliefs, customs and festivals are woven around the temples in the valley. Some of the famous temples of Churah are the Chamunda Devi temple at Devi Kothi and the Bhadra Kali temple at Bhalei.
The 27 km route from Tissa to Bairagarh is a tough drive. Traila, a small station enroute, till recent times used to be the only market for residents of Pangi valley. The road ascends to Satrundi and the panoramic landscape from here is one of being in the company of towering and grand Pir Panjal peaks around. The high point on the route is Sach Pass at 4428 meters before it descends into Chenab valley to meet the Tandi-Kishtwar road at Killar. Normally this stretch of the road is snowbound from late November to June/July.
The Bhandal valley opens up at Salooni and through Langhera links up with Kishtwar region of Jammu. The valley is rich in flora and fauna and is a popular trekking area, with there being a range of walking options available in and around Bhandal.
This hamlet high in the valley with its well-preserved hill style temple of Shakti Devi is associated with Meru Varman, the 7th century founder of the Bharmaur royal house. The temple has a well-preserved idol that has the date 680 AD inscribed on it, which was the time when Meru Varman laid the foundations of the Bharmaur kingdom.
Spread out along a ridge between the towering Pir Panjal and Dhauladhar ranges, Salooni, overlooking the Bhandal valley is a very scenic place where many film directors have shot romantic sequences. The nearby Gamgul Siahbehi Wildlife Sanctuary conserves rich Himalayan flora and fauna which includes musk deer, barking deer, monal pheasant and the snow leopard. Salooni is 56 kms from Chamba and the game reserve is 20 km from Salooni.
Treks of 5-8 day duration, viable from June to October include:
Chamba to Lake Manimahesh (4170m), a 7 day Yatra (pilgrimage)
Chamba to Killar in the Pangi valley over the Sach Pass and onwards to Kishtwar in Jammu and Kashmir.
Chamba is also the base for delightful one or two day treks to places like Khajjiar, Jhumar and Kandi-Bassu.
Bharmaur to Trilokinath/Udaipur in Lahaul over the Kalicho Pass (4803 m)
Bharmaur to Udaipur over the Chobia Pass (4966 m)
Bharmaur to Udaipur / Manali over the Kugti Pass (5040 m)
Bharmaur to Lake Manimahesh (4170 m).
High over the valley, overlooking the town, the hilltop ‘Jot’ is about 30 km from Chamba. For its commanding views, the Jot attracts a lot of visitors. In winters it receives heavy snow that can pile up to 7 feet. The scenic meadow of Khajjiar, 20 kms away, is an easy grade trek. In summer regular buses and taxis from Chamba ply to Jot.
Katasan Devi Temple
Overlooking Chamba valley, this Devi temple is near Baira Siul hydroelectric project and is a pilgrim attraction as well as a picnic site. It is 30 kms from Chamba.
Landscaped gardens, a sheep breeding center and an apiary at Sarol make the place of interest for tourists. It is only 11 kms from Chamba
In the vicinity of thick alpine forestlands, the apple orchard country of Jhumar has a special rural charm. It is only 10 kms from Chamba.
Bhalei Mata Temple
The revered deity at Bhalei Mata temple as Bhadra Kali, a mother goddess, is worshipped as a destroyer of evil. The original temple was built by Raja Pratap Singh Varman, a contemporary of Akbar, the Mughal, in the 16th century.
For the spring and autumn navratras, many pilgrims make their way to pay obeisance at the Bhalei Mata temple and the place wears a decorative look for the religious festivities.
Getting there: Bhalei can be reached from Chamba and Dalhousie. It is 40 km from Chamba, 25 km from Salooni and 35 km from Dalhousie.
Bhuri Singh Museum
Bhuri Singh Museum at Chamba opened formally on 14-09-1908, it is named after Raja Bhuri Singh who ruled Chamba from 1904 to 1919. Bhuri Singh donated his family collection of paintings to the museum. The idea to open a public museum came from J. Ph. Vogel, an eminent Indologist who was serving A.S.I. and who through an intensive exploration had discovered, read and analyzed old inscriptions dispersed far and wide in the territory of Chamba state. These inscriptions mostly in Sarda script shed important light on the mediaeval history of Chamba. The prasastis of Sarahan, Devi-ri-kothi and mul Kihar are now preserved in the museum.
Paintings of Bhagwat Purana and Ramayana in peculiar style are inspired by Basohli idiom of painting whereas Krishna, Sudama, Rukmini vivah and Usha-Anirudh and portraits in prime Guler-Kangra style were executed by the artists who were patronized by the Chamba rulers. The embroidered Chamba-Rumals are related in style since their drawings were made by pahari painters though the embroidery was done by the household ladies. Besides these major items of collections, there are coins, hill jewelry and costumes- both traditional and royal, arms and armour, musical instruments and various decorative objects. The old museum building which merged well with the landscape of Chamba was pulled down and the present concrete monolith was inaugurated in 1975. The museum remains open from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM throughout the year except on Monday and other gazetted holidays.